"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
Alex Kile's pointless game winner [Bill Rapai]
And it was the most pointless of all events. Michigan got a 2-2 tie out of a tightly contested game against a quite good Ferris State outfit on Wednesday, and fans were treated to a shootout at the end. The shootout decided nothing and meant nothing and took about 85 shooters to complete, but it was superficially fun all the same. Wow experience.
Anyway, Michigan staged an epic comeback in the shot department after a first period that Ferris dominated there and on the ice. M went from 14-4 down to 22-22 after two and went toe-to-toe; in the third they were held without a shot for a long time mostly because they kept tipping the puck two inches wide of the post, agonizingly. Ferris's tying goal came on a screened shot where it looked like Nagelvoort was unaware of who even had the puck and was badly positioned; other than that he was pretty damn good.
Michigan needs Kevin Lohan back, and soon, so they can sit Clare. Clare saw a potential two-on-one developing at center ice and decided to charge it, for the rare center-ice pinch. Upside: Clare gets the puck just outside of the blue line with three M skaters in the offensive zone. Downside: two on one featuring Sinelli as the last guy. Completely insane decision, one of many.
Other than that, a damn good game between two good teams without a lot of offensive wizards on their roster.
GO AWAY. EVERYBODY GO AWAY. Pat Narduzzi turns down the UConn job, which makes perfect sense. Bob Diaco then takes it, which doesn't but does mean Notre Dame has lost both its coordinators this offseason. Offense hardly matters since that's Brian Kelly's show; Diaco's departure might put some wobble in a unit that's been pretty good ever since he figured out how to defend Navy.
ND players certainly freaked out about it. Stephon Tuitt in a since-deleted tweet:
It is called that, Mr. Tuitt, and my suggestion to you is to do the same.
As for Narduzzi, he seems to be holding out for a job that is not an AAC death trap. This is probably the right idea. Unfortunately for Michigan fans hoping for some shakeup in the MSU program, with all the heads on the table save Mack Brown it doesn't look like there's going to be an opening of appropriate attractiveness this offseason unless someone gets poached by the NFL late. I'll pencil him in as Illinois's coach starting next year.
Coaching trees. Diaco is the third Brian Kelly assistant to get a head job (Charlie Molnar is at UMass and Chuck Martin was just hired at Miami). Current head coaches from Carr/Hoke era assistants after Ron English (understandably) lost his mind at EMU:
- Brady Hoke, Michigan
- This is not a tree.
- You need branches for that.
- It's a coaching line.
With Mattison and Borges not candidates for head jobs due to a variety of factors, that's not going to change. Hell, the only Michigan guy under 50 to have reached a coordinator spot is Scot Loeffler, who may not be long for that role after one-year stints at Temple and Florida were followed by a miserable opening year at Virginia Tech.
That's alarming. Compare Carr's coaching tree to Bo's… actually don't even bother doing that, compare it to Gary Moeller. It's not good that the only major school still willing to hire Michigan coaches is Michigan.
YES GO AWAY. Braxton Miller's looking at the NFL:
“It’s tough,” Miller told the Tribune. “I just don't know. I’ve really got to sit down and go through the pros and cons. I’ll talk to my parents, take it slow.
"Hopefully ball out on January 3rd and see what the scouts are looking at.”
The NFL is looking at Braxton Miller and seeing a guy who's nowhere near an NFL quarterback right now, so this probably won't come to anything. But it should. Go away!
I like big Butt. Sorry. Inevitable that was going to happen at some point. It couldn't be helped, really. Here's why it happened:
Butt entered his first year at Michigan as a scrawny, 6-foot-6, 209-pound prospect with potential.
He'll leave it some 37 pounds heavier, at 6-foot-6, 246-pounder with 11 percent body fat and an appetite for much, much more.
"(The coaching staff) wants me at 255, but I think I can get to 260, I'm a skinny 246 right now," Butt said. "I can put on more."
That is a crazy amount of weight in one year. Contrast that to Devin Funchess, who was listed at 235 as both a freshman and sophomore. While that lack of weight gain was mostly due to the roster lying its ass off about Funchess as a freshman, hey look one of those guys is a tight end and the other one is a wide receiver who occasionally puts his hand down.
If Butt can get to 260 by next fall, Michigan could have an actual dual threat tight end. This would make everyone happy: Borges would have a guy who's an actual matchup issue and I wouldn't have to watch Borges put tight ends on the field over guys like Dileo when that makes no sense at all.
Come on baby.
You wouldn't even recognize my blocking (back in the spring compared to know), I didn't know which foot to step with or where to put my hands, it's night and day," Butt says. "I look at the film and wonder 'who is that kid?' The coaches here put a complete transformation on me."
They're going to play tight ends; hopefully they'll have one worth playing.
This used to happen all the time! Michigan's safety play was not great this year but got a lot worse once Michigan started futzing with their starters, inexplicably at first and then apparently injury-forced, and I still don't get why Michigan was so down on Thomas Gordon. Was he great? No. Did he do this?
For instance, below Michigan State packages mesh with a smash variation combining a corner and swing route. The goal is to put a man beater to the boundary and a hi-lo stretch to the field against a cover 2 corner.
At the snap, Cook reads cover 2, so he knows he is going to the wide side of the field, where he has the 2 on 1 against the squat corner. Cook knows that the corner must cover the swing to the wide side flat, and he can throw the flag pattern before the cover 2 safety can react.
So Michigan State has a good call against the Buckeye coverage. But a completion is one thing. Throwing gasoline on the fire, Corey Pitt Brown takes a horrible angle, coming under the throw and violating a cover 2 safety's primary rule, which is not get beat deep. Seventy-two yards later Michigan State was up 10-0.
No. He was a boring person who did boring things like be a step late on well-thrown corner routes. This is pretty good in the grand scheme of things.
Given what we saw out of Avery and Furman when they were inserted it's clear no one was pushing through; messing with the safeties was a counterproductive move likely borne out of panic about the offense making the defensive coaches try anything that might improve the defense. By the OSU game their hand was forced by Wilson's injury, which is one of about ten things that may have cost Michigan that game.
Compare and contrast. Michigan State got inundated with Rose Bowl ticket requests to the point that they had a choice: cut out some low end folks or reduce available tickets for big ballers from 6 to 4 and medium ballers from 4 to 2. They went with the latter.
"At some point, you have to be true to the character of your institution, your history and fanbase. We're not elitist. We realize we have tremendous fan support and we know the sacrifices people make to be donors.
"The decision was made to be in line with the inclusive character of our university," Schager added. "The bottom line is Michigan State University wants to accommodate as many people as possible (for) this experience that everybody wants to be a part of."
As soon as Michigan got a good basketball team, they reseated Crisler such that people who had put in the time to watch ten years of dreck got booted upstairs if they weren't huge donors.
And there's not going to be a pep band on Saturday… for some reason. The pep band people are irritated, so it's not them, but it seems insane for even Dave Brandon to try to milk some 100 extra seats out of one regular season basketball game. That appears to be the case, though.
One of these athletic directors is making decisions based on building loyalty with his whole fanbase; the other is still running a company that markets cardboard as pizza.
Amir Williams! Oh man I feel your pain, Amir Williams.
BABY PLEASE DON'T GO
Burkedate. You've probably seen this from Beilein:
My coaching staff and I have met with Trey and his parents several times over the past two weeks. Collectively, we have gathered and shared with each of them some necessary information that we feel will help Trey make the most informed decision for his future.
The Burke family has been very receptive to our assistance and appreciates that we have encouraged Trey to take his time and look at all of his options between now and the April 10 deadline.
With only one full week of classes remaining, Trey and his teammates, like all students at Michigan, are working diligently to complete their assignments and prepare for final exams.
Hopefully we can exhale about that Guptill tweet. A reader noted that "move sci" is one of those massive 101-level lectures that doesn't take attendance and probably has as multiple choice exam—ah, Anthro 101 fulfilling my R&E requirement. Burke's probably not missing anything other than quality time with the Daily crossword.
As for where the needle's pointing on a departure, it hasn't moved since yesterday when the forecast called for despair with a small pocket of hope starting at about 3 PM. I don't have anything new, and given the situation anything other than an official declaration one way or the other is going to be worth little.
Go Ferris. Ferris State beat Union yesterday to advance to the NCAA hockey championship game against a rampant BC. For state pride and underdog status and to put the Ferris program on solid footing in the coming hockey New World Order, a Bulldog championship would be sweet. The game is tomorrow at 7 on ESPN2.
In danger. Josh Furman's absence from practice has been attributed to "administrative" issues that aren't academic, and this gives off a whiff of doghouse:
When asked how safety Josh Furman has been doing during camp, Mattison reversed course and said Michigan head coach Brady Hoke would have to answer that.
Dollars to donuts Furman's got a strike or two to his name. Being held out of spring practice is not a good sign. Meanwhile, Marvin Robinson will plead to a lesser charge in his having-a-"concussion"-that-held-him-out-of-eight-games case. He's practicing, so extrapolate Furman's situation from that.
RELEASE THE MCALBRECHTKEN. It's back to the drawing board for the internet nickname but it looks like the brief, passionate courtship between Michigan and Spike Albrecht will come to a satisfactory conclusion. The NWI Times reports that he's "expected to sign" today—should be "commit" since the signing period doesn't start for a few days. Coach quote:
"Spike always played at a high level for us," Swan said, "but to see what he did at the highest level of prep school ball this past year, that was remarkable.
"I know the Michigan staff is very excited about Spike and I know I am really happy for him. He's worked really hard for this opportunity."
Finally we have our revenge on Appalachian State. Can we cancel that game now?
Albrecht's presumed commitment gives Michigan a point guard in the event of a Burke departure; they've still got one or two open slots for 2012 depending on how that goes and a third scholarship they could spend on a grad-year transfer. Speaking of…
Another name for the transfer mill. Boston College's Matt Humphrey has decided to spend his last year of eligibility elsewhere. He's more of a wing or shooting guard and did not stand out amongst the wreckage that was BC's most recent season, but he was their second-leading scorer. BC Interruption on his game:
Humphrey was an enigma during his times with the Eagles. At times he was the offensive and defensive rock for BC, providing veteran leadership to a very young and inexperienced team. On the other hand he was impatient (shooting 35% from the field), and averaged two turnovers a game. He also showed an impatient fiery streak, sometimes making big turnovers in crucial moments.
As literally the only non-freshman who played more than a third of BC's minutes, it's hard to judge how he'd contribute to a better team. BC was 9-22 last year. His efficiency numbers are poor—he was 40% from 2, 31% from three—but shot selection had a lot to do with that. Presumably the shots would be better here.
With a BC degree in hand the academics shouldn't be a problem.
Why do you keep hitting yourself? Ramzy posts up an 84-year-old OSU program written by Brady Hoke:
You there with the helmet: go forth and show that beaver subphylum what Ohio is all about. Well done.
Insert usual amusement at OSU fans getting terribly peeved about That School Up North not calling them by their official name. Not Ramzy in particular, just, you know, them.
Seven teams, pi semifinals, one and a half finals: The Delany Plan. I don't have to mention that Jim Delany's ludicrous three-semifinal plan for a "plus one" is ludicrous, right? This is how that would have looked the past five years:
Semifinals: No. 1 LSU-No. 5 Oregon (replacing Stanford), No. 2 Alabama-No. 3 Oklahoma State
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Stanford-No. 10 Wisconsin
Semifinals: No. 1 Auburn-No. 6 Ohio State (replacing Wisconsin), No. 3 TCU-No. 4 Stanford
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon-No. 5 Wisconsin
Semifinals: No. 2 LSU-No. 5 Georgia (replacing Ohio State), No. 3 Virginia Tech-No. 4 Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State-No. 7 USC
The Rose Bowl has survived years in which it's lost one of its tenants to the national title game just fine. Over the last five years it would have had to replace three of its eight berths with… 11-1 Michigan (2007), 11-1 Stanford (2010), and 10-2 Oregon(2011). The Rose Bowl will survive a move to a four-team playoff just fine.
Tom Fornelli has the plan I endorse anyway.
Think of the children. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott surveys his players for their desires in re: playoff:
While the players expressed a range of opinions, the "common thread" was their desire for some form of playoff. "If you're a competitor, you want a chance to play for it on the field, versus being voted for. That was made loud and clear," said Scott.
This has long been the case but now it matters because people have to backtrack on their lame justifications of the previous system.
Kind of, yes. Joe Nocera's been hammering the NCAA for months now but never has he taken on a more harpoon-worthy whale than that condescending ad you learned to hate over the course of the NCAA tournament. Not the Spandeau Ballet one. The other one:
If you’ve been watching the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championship — a k a March Madness — you’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial. It’s an N.C.A.A. ad that shows college athletes pumping iron, running sprints and playing games. The voice-over, though, talks not about athletic achievement but academic accomplishment. “African-American males who are student-athletes are 10 percent more likely to graduate,” says the narrator. As the ad concludes, a female athlete looks into the camera and says, “Still think we’re just a bunch of dumb jocks?”
Well… it appears you can't do math:
But Richard Southall, who directs the College Sport Research Institute at the University of North Carolina — along with two colleagues, E. Woodrow Eckard of the University of Colorado-Denver and Mark Nagel at the University of South Carolina — have done rigorous studies that show the opposite. In comparing college basketball players with their true peer group — full-time college students — their data show that the athletes are 20 percent less likely to graduate than nonathletes. They also parsed the data by race: of the teams in this year’s March Madness, for instance, the black athletes are 33 percent less likely to graduate than nonathletes.
There are a lot of good reasons this may be. By the time a lot of players get to college they've been set up to struggle. But the relationship between money, prestige, and cut corners is clear.
Etc.: ESPN revamps its 2012 basketball rankings a final time. GRIII is #18, McGary #27, Stauskas #76. The overall class has dipped to #11. The OHL Draft is this weekend. Keep an eye on where commits Kyle Connor and Dylan Larkin go—the lower the better. More Albrecht scouting from people hitting up the full-game youtube videos of his team playing. An early look at the Alabama offense.
The final team in Green Bay this weekend. First round opponent Cornell was profiled a couple days ago; Denver yesterday. Doing the entire regional is not a jinx. It is a way to work out nervous energy. I told my wife that today was the first round of the hockey tournament and got a worried "oh" in response.
Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap
|WHAT||Michigan(?) vs Ferris State(?)|
|WHERE||Green Bay, heart of the CCHA|
|WHEN||9:30 Eastern Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 23-11-5, 16-7-5 CCHA. Ferris won the CCHA by four points despite winning just one of five shootouts. They were going to have a rumble with Michigan at the Joe for the top seed in Green Bay until two overtime losses to Bowling Green saw them shockingly dumped from the CCHA playoffs. Ferris got locked into a two seed as a result.
They achieved what they did mostly with defense. Ferris is a little bit better than average at putting pucks in the net (a hair under three goals per game is good for 21st) and is top ten at keeping them out (2.2, 10th). Their goal differential in the league was an impressive +18. Michigan (+25) and Miami (+19) did beat them out, but Ferris spread their goals out much more effectively than the mercurial Wolverines and Redhawks.
Previous meetings. Michigan's lone bright spot in their awful streak last fall was a sweep of the Bulldogs that looks inexplicable now. Michigan hammered the eventual league champions 5-2 and 4-0; they'd win one of their next nine games.
It makes even less sense when you dive into some of the ancillary stats, in which the teams were dead even. Shots were basically even over the weekend. On Friday both teams had two power play goals. On Saturday the teams combined to go 0/11 with a man advantage. Penalty kills were also even over both days.
The only stat separating the teams were goals, goals, goals. Taylor Nelson gave up five goals on 28 shots; backup CJ Motte got the Saturday game and gave up four on the same number. Hunwick's save percentage for the weekend was .962. Note that Michigan's seven goal advantage came entirely at even strength.
Common opponents. Too many to mention since Michigan and Ferris are conference-mates. At least for now. This is probably even; the Bulldogs may have won the league but the different league playoff runs bring that back to parity.
Ferris needs Matthew Kirzinger to produce if it expects to advance
Dangermen. Ferris State's scoring is a lot like Michigan's: a top line does most of the work and gets they get decent support from the second line. After that there is little. Ferris's scoring drops off a lot faster than Michigan's. CenterIce scouted them before the fall series:
Don't get me wrong these guys can play, but what I saw from the film was the inability to finish plays. Time after time I watched a Ferris forward stickhandle through miami defenders, or make the perfect pass only to miss the net. A lot of the goals scored were due to Miami being shorthanded or being to slow, or a shot from Bolivia. That being said we still have to respect the team who is 15th in team offense because they do have a lot of skill.
The top guys are all upperclassment in the same point range. Winger Matthew Kirzinger (10-22-32) is the setup guy for Kyle Bonis (18-11-29) and Jordie Johnston (18-15-33). The second line does a little bit of scoring, but five of Travis Ouellette's nine goals have come on the power play, as have three of Garrett Thompson's nine. They don't get much even strength production outside of the top three.
Senior defenseman Chad Billins is also a power play threat—he has 7-22-29 with five of those goals coming with a man advantage.
Defense. These guys are defenders first, second, and third. Billins gets that power play run and has an assist rate that indicates he's doing something more than picking up second assists; even so no FSU defender has more than two goals at even strength.
Elaborately-named Scott Czarnaowczan is the other guy on the top pairing with Billins; he was a nominee for the league's top defensive defenseman at the end of the year.
undeserving of first team all conference but still pretty good goalie clapclapclap
Goalie. Taylor Nelson was not better than Shawn Hunwick over the course of the season but he would have been a deserving second-team all conference selection with his .920 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Freshman CJ Motte got a dozen games as well, but Bob Daniels isn't likely to go away from his senior unless things go pear-shaped.
As noted above, neither goalie had a good outing in Michigan's sweep early in the year.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.7||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.4||4.2|
Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically
Single elimination hockey. Is insane.
Usual statement about playing five on five a lot. Goes here.
Match Pateryn and Bennett with their big line. Michigan has last change and given the steep dropoff in even strength production they should try to get their best defensive lineup out there against Kirzinger/Bonis/Johnston. That is Pateryn plus some combination of defensive forwards.
Get the same goalie gap. The difference in Michigan's dominating sweep early in the year was almost entirely in net.
Grind it out. Ferris is a neutral-zone clogging, space-denying, odd-man-rush-prohibiting team of grit and sand that's gotten where they are despite a total lack of NHL draft picks. They will make whoever they play work for any chances they happen to get. Michigan will need guys like Guptill and Deblois and Brown and Glendening to win board battles if they want to get anywhere.
The Big Picture
Cornell first, of course. In the blessed event of a second-round game, Michigan must win or be thrown out the airlock.
Schadenfreuede starring you. You may be featured in TWIS…
It's time to play "MGoBlog Content Or Smiths Song?"
…but so am I so it's only fair. Also the first one isn't actually MGoBlog content, it's from MGoFootball, but it was too perfect.
What happened when that other thing was happening. If you weren't one of the sixteen people at Yost on Saturday this is what happened:
That completed a four point weekend after Michigan's last-ditch tying goal led to a shootout loss in Big Rapids. The NCAA does not use shootouts as part of the PWR formula so to them it's just 1-0-1, which is a decent enough weekend against an opponent that traditionally plays Michigan very tough at home.
Michigan heads up to Fairbanks this weekend for a tough series against Alaska (That Alaska):
The Nanooks are 5-2-1 on the year and have a win over Colorado College; they've beaten some weak teams and lost to North Dakota at home and had a 0-1-1 trip at Munn in their first and only weekend outside of Alaska. After that Michigan gets a rejuvenated Notre Dame program at Yost; the next two weeks will go a long way towards establishing just what Michigan is this year after a slightly shaky start.
Brian Kelly terror level: reduced. I'm on record saying that in Brian Kelly Notre Dame had found a real coach who was likely to whip the talented but lost Weis leftovers into a formidable team sooner or later, likely sooner. Eh… not so much. The decision to have your freshman backup toss a fade to Michael Floyd when you need a field goal to win and a Groza candidate at kicker is Weis-level outsmarting yourself. Also it was against Tulsa.
So that's one thing. More damning still was what happened in the Navy game. At halftime Brian Kelly mumbled something incoherent about the "veer" to the sideline reporter, implying that the Mids had brought out the fireworks for their big game against Notre Dame:
If you saw the game you might have thought this was weird since the Navy offense looked pretty much like the Navy offense always does except the fullback wasn't getting tackled until he was 20 yards downfield. Navy blog The Birddog, which breaks down Navy games in detail equivalent to UFR, explains what the fancy new scheme was:
Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works.
Navy started the game in the heavy formation, with two tackles lined up on one side and a wide receiver in the tackle position on the other side. Contrary to Kelly’s comments, this isn’t unusual at all for the Navy offense. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper frequently uses the heavy formation when the defense has an inside linebacker with exceptional playmaking ability; in Notre Dame’s case, that would be Manti Te’o. … The first down lineman on or outside the B gap is still unblocked as the quarterback’s first key, and the next player out is still #2 in the count. Since it is the lineman in the B gap that is left unblocked, that’s the path that the fullback takes on his run. If that lineman steps upfield and takes the quarterback, that’s where the running lane will be.
That isn’t something new that the Navy coaches saved for Notre Dame. That is Navy Offense 101. It’s the absolute basics; the bread and butter play run in every game out of every formation. If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through.
The Birddog explains Kelly's odd veer comment as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Navy offense based on the idea they run the midline a ton (they did run it against ND, but only twice). Which fine he's an offensive guy but that's got to be the explanation he got from DC Bob Diaco, then, so you're just devolving the gaping incompetence to the coordinator level. (This does not sound familiar at all.) So Notre Dame goes in at halftime aware they've made a fundamental mistake when it comes to the Navy offense and they change their scheme up like so:
Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
That's how you lose 35-17 to Navy. Navy then went out and lost to Duke, rushing for 148 yards at 4.0 a pop. So… yeah. As long as Diaco's around I'm not going to be that terrified of Brian Kelly. (This is not a criticism you can level at Michigan.)
Give me back mah bukkit. Elsewhere in Charlie Weis comparisons, Danny Hope is one easily-peeved walrus:
After Purdue cut its deficit to 37-10, Illinois threw three passes on a 57-yard scoring drive, including a 15-yard scoring strike from Scheelhaase to Chris James with 1:36 left.
"I probably would not have done that but I’m not going to cry about it," Hope told reporters after the game. "That's their choice, their call. I would not have done it. He’s the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, call it, chuck it and run it up."
Unlike former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who had a heated postgame exchange with Wisconsin's Bret Bielema after an Oct. 9 game in Madison, Hope doesn't intend to confront Zook.
"Why would I say something about that?" Hope said. "Game's over. It's his call. It’s done. I'm not going to cry about it."
Charlie Weis press conferences were laden with statements like "I'm not going to blame Jimmy Clausen for overthrowing Golden Tate, I take that responsibility myself. Another thing I'm taking responsibility for: our defensive line being comprised of mewling kittens. That's on me, and does not reflect poorly on the character of Ian Williams." Here Hope repeatedly states he's not going to cry about the thing he is crying about.
Etc.: 2011 PG commit Trey Burke continues to play well in local tournaments, going head to head with a top-50 player and coming out almost even in points (33 to 34) and seeing his team pick up the W.
1/23/2010 – Michigan 2, Ferris State 0 – 14-10-1, 9-7-0-1 CCHA
1/24/2010 – Michigan 2, Ferris State 3 – 14-11-1, 9-8-0-1 CCHA
I think I've come to this conclusion about the Saturday game, in which Michigan tied it up with two minutes left only to concede a game losing goal with under thirty seconds on the clock: GODDAMMIT.
In a little more detail, perhaps. There's no shame in losing to a Ferris State team that basically lived up to their advance billing as a very good team, but it's super frustrating when the three goals scored are
- a terribly soft short-handed goal on a nothing play
- the direct result of a really obvious tripping call, and
- in the final minute of the game.
If Michigan had done better than .500 in the first half of the season it would be easy to let the game go as a combination of misfortune, an excellent opponent, and a tough road venue, but they didn't. The thing stands as a giant missed opportunity in a season that doesn't have many left.
This post probably should be focusing on the full two-minute 5-on-3 kill and a weekend in which Michigan proved itself equal to a team that's solidly in the tournament, but it's hard to do anything but fret when your RPI is in the high teens and you're flirting with the end of a 20-year run in the NCAA tourney. Does Mel Pearson look nervous above or am I projecting? Does it matter?
The great reversal. What a weird series. Despite the 2-0 final score, the Friday game was full of end-to-end rushes and wide open play, with both teams just missing on a number of pretty passing plays. And despite the three extra goals on Saturday, that night's game was a slog where I don't recall a single scoring chance for Michigan in the first period. I don't know if Michigan's breakout caught Ferris by surprise or what, but it was weird. I was shocked that a team with defensive numbers like Michigan State in all its dead-puck Ron Mason glory would get into an end-to-end game like that.
Part of the deal Friday night was a very fast Ferris team pressing hard after they fell behind, which resulted in a lot of open ice—but few odd-man-rushes—once Michigan broke the pressure. When Michigan returned to the ice in the third just looking to close it out, that period became very boring. Saturday was mostly Michigan chasing thanks to the uber-soft shortie. With this team, I buy that first-goal-all-important stuff. The last two weekends are plenty of evidence.
People of note. I thought it was odd that Scooter Vaughn sat out last weekend in favor of freshman Jeff Rohrkemper and still think it's odd after Vaughn got back on the ice against Ferris and played very well, picking up a first assist on Friday and generally being the sort of fourth-liner that gets noticed for positive contributions. I guess you want Rohrkemper to know he's going to get in some games and if you're going to scratch one of the forwards it's probably going to be Scooter.
Louie Caporusso continues to struggle mightily. He's scored once in the past nine games. He has tried 60 spectacular dangles in that time, 58 of which have ended in pucks turned over in dangerous areas. The other two were admittedly pretty sweet scoring chances. I'm worried about him and also AJ Treais, who certainly seems like he should be putting up more points. He's not, and the longer he goes without having something click the less likely it is to ever happen. See also: Ben Winnett.
Greg Pateryn drew in for MGoWhippingBoy Tristin Llewellyn and was just okay. He didn't take any bad penalties but there was one incident where even a relative hockey neophyte like myself could see that he was moving the wrong direction like five seconds before a really poor attempt at a check was blown by and created a two-on-one. Lee Moffie, on the other hand, is super smooth and impresses more each game.
Bryan Hogan… ghaahahhah. Gah.
On that tripping call and other things. I didn't have a lot of complaints Friday night about the refereeing except for Steve McInchak's usual determination to let every post-whistle cheapshot go unpunished, but I also did not have the benefit of replay. Seemingly every call for and against Michigan in the Saturday game was wrong, most comically the Chad Langlais penalty where he took a holding the stick call after he'd established position in a race for the puck and bodied a Ferris player off so that his defense partner could collect the puck. I don't recall the bad calls on Ferris as specifically, but I remember thinking to myself
And then there was the second goal, where David Wohlberg was tripped coming out of the faceoff dot and then rushed out to the point at a speed that allowed Ferris's defenseman to step around him and pick a corner. That's an obvious call you have to make.
Why the CCHA allows McInchak and Some Guy I've Never Seen Before to ref a really important series when there's an opportunity to stash them at Western-Bowling Green I'll never know. In their stead we could have gotten the marginally more competent BG-WMU crew of Confused Marmoset and PCP-Enraged Physics Professor.
JMFJ. Two days after the Dean Lombardi incident, Jack Johnson is where?
At Yost, playing Score-O in his letter jacket. Not even Danny Fardig wore his, and if I was Danny Fardig I would never take mine off. Jack Johnson is awesome.
Still slightly to the good. Splitting with a team as highly regarded as Ferris is in the PWR is still progress: Michigan gained a spot over the weekend and now sits #18. Ferris, on the other hand, dropped from 5 to 8.) In the brief window between the Friday and Saturday games Michigan was technically in the tournament at #14.
PWR is really jittery, though, and the current RPI will predict the future PWR better than the current PWR. In that, Michigan was static.
Re-evaluating the 14 of 17 meme. I suggested that Michigan had to storm the last half of its schedule to have any hope of an at large bid and with the Saturday loss Michigan is off pace. They've used half of those three losses in six games. Doom?
Well… it does look pretty doomy. Sioux Sports shows that Michigan has to win nine of its last eleven to move into an RPI spot better than the last team in the tournament. If we can give them a little more slack it's not mch more: basically we don't have to count the Alaska tie against them.
This weekend is huge, huge, huge. HUGE. For one, it's against Michigan State. For two, State has slid of late and is now on the bubble itself. They're on the right side at the moment but Michigan could—probably would—pass them with a weekend sweep. That would give them the two head-to-head points they lost earlier back and probably send M past the Spartans in RPI. At the very least, Michigan would put that comparison back in play. Anything short of a sweep and that comparison is gone and Michigan will have spent another weekend doing nothing in particular to move on up in the world.
Before the weekend I suggested that 3-1 in this four game stretch was just about required if Michigan was going to be in position for an at-large bid, and they're 1-1. There are nine games plus the CCHA playoffs left after this weekend, which is a lot of time, but if they want to give themselves any leeway at all down the stretch they'll have to take a win and a tie from the weekend.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Ferris State|
|WHERE||Friday @ Yost
Saturday @ Ferris
January 22/23rd, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||CBS College Sports both nights|
Record. 16-6-2, 10-4-2-2 CCHA. #5 PWR. Currently third place with 34 points. Michigan is nine points back in a tie for sixth.
Ferris State is back with their septannual kickass team, though this edition probably isn't quite as good as the Chris Kunitz-led 2003 team that won the conference championship, made it to the CCHA playoff final, and snagged Ferris State's first and only NCAA tournament bid. They just got swept by league-leading Miami and their nonconference schedule (Canisius, UConn, Robert Morris, single games against Yale and Merrimack) is exceedingly weak. That 2003 team was a legitimate national power. This appears to be a solid team a step or two down from those guys.
Even so, there's one team playing this weekend on the cusp of a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and it's not Michigan. And Ferris's goal differentials are impressive. They're +30 overall and +18 in the CCHA. They are fifth in scoring margin at 1.25. (Michigan is 11th.) They are for serious.
Dangermen. Ferris has one line that does a huge chunk of their scoring. Seniors Blair Riley (right), Cody Chupp, and Casey Haines are the top line and Ferris's leading scorers; Riley is far and away the top guy with 16 goals and 27 points. Chupp has seven and a couple of other guys are hovering around that mark, but Ferris is a top-heavy team.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Ferris is built on an extremely stingy defense. They're tied for third nationally with Cornell at just 2.12 GPG; goalie Pat Nagle has a nation-leading .932 save percentage. (He's tied with two others, FWIW.) Ferris actually rotates its goalies, with Nagel and sophomore Taylor Nelson both getting 13 games to date. Nelson's got the better record but Nagel is giving up a half-goal less per game. Nelson's save percentage is a stellar .921.
With two goalies sporting save percentages that Patrick Roy would envy, Ferris State has either stumbled onto a goalie gold mine or the defense has a large influence on those numbers. Expect tight-checking, tough games without a ton of grade A scoring chances.
Special teams. Your updated power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G||6.0||5.8|
|PP Ag / G||5.6||5.5|
Essentially even with Ferris a tiny bit more likely to pick up penalties for and against. And there will be penalties. Ferris is #2 in penalty minutes acquired*. Michigan is #10. Also, when these teams face off it tends to get chippy.
The specialty units will get a ton of time, then. They're dead even. Ferris State is converting a little better on the power play but has allowed three shorthanded goals; if you take those into account Michigan actually outperforms them slightly. The penalty kills are outstanding. Ferris is #3 at 88.8%. Michigan is #4 at 88.5%. Since Ferris has a couple extra shorthanded goals their penalty kill is a little better. The two teams could be any more more identical here.
PROTIP: don't take an obvious holding penalty seven seconds into a kill.
*(Possibly interesting side note: despite UAF's uncharacteristic penalty-fest last weekend they are still the least-penalized team in the country by a wide margin. Meanwhile, the team that beat out Ferris for #1 is Alaska-Anchorage. Alaska: land of extremes.)
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Line match where possible. It's a home and home series so the Saturday game will be tricky, but the obvious move is to put Michigan's crazy fast fore-check and shutdown line of Lynch, Hagelin, and Rust on Riley and anyone else who wants to skate with him. Berenson has explicitly stated this is the plan:
“I don’t want to put an inexperienced player out there against the top player in the league and then expect us to win that matchup,” Berenson said. “We have to respect who is on the ice for them and who is on the ice for us.”
While the top lines on both teams highlight the matchup, it’s the players behind them that will be the difference this weekend.
“You’re trying to outscore that line or shut them down,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But in the meantime, if you do, and they're nullifying you at the same time, then it comes down to your next line or your next line and where are you going to get your offense from?”
Continue to get supporting players scoring. Whether it's Brian Lebler firing wicked wrist shots off the post and in or Lindsey Sparks coming out of the corner or Chris Brown turning into a face-masked version of Thomas Holmstrom, Michigan is going to need to get some production out of guys who aren't the stars of the team. Caporusso and Wohlberg continue to scuffle. Though they continue to put up assists, Brian Lebler now has more goals than they do. Lebler's actually tied for third on the team with seven, and while that's super cool for him it's a major reason Michigan's had trouble this year.
Play from ahead. Yes, this is dangerously close to a Key To The Game that boils down to "score more points."
An attempt at something not tautological: this is not the other Ferris team. That was an offensive machine capable of generating points not only from Kunitz but from a wide array of offensive defensemen. This is a gritty grit Eckstein of a team with one standout player that Carl Hagelin will be tasked with destroying. Michigan cannot afford to give up a goal like the Chad Langlais turnover against UAF, because teams like Ferris and Alaska are built to play from ahead. Just look at the difference between UAF in the third period on Friday and Saturday. On Friday they were overrun; on Saturday they played keep-away for 15 minutes before Langlais got his redemption.
The Big Picture
Just keep repeating "it was a win and a tie and the shootout was an exhibition" about last weekend. That makes Michigan 3-0-1 since the break. That is a roll, especially since they played very well in the tie save for one turnover and one terrible penalty kill.
They're now a TUC and hovering at 19th in the standings facing down a two week stretch that will probably make or break their at-large hopes. If they sweep the next two weekends they're gold. If they go 3-1 they are feeling very good about their chances with a selection of weak CCHA teams coming up and a bunch of guaranteed TUC wins in the bag. If they go 2-2 they have to really tear through the back end of the schedule, and anything worse than that is curtains.
A win and a tie from the weekend would be great.